Apolis is a socially motivated lifestyle brand that empowers communities worldwide.
Brothers Shea and Raan Parton grew up in the privileged surroundings of Southern California. To ground the brothers in reality, their parents traveled with Raan and Shea. Seeing how the rest of the world lived afforded the boys a perspective shift. This early experience of diverse cultures made them comfortable enough to eventually move from the passive role of tourist to participant: “The most rich way to experience places or cultures is to be working there and to be part of it.”
By the time Shea was in high school and Raan in college, they shipped their first orders from their parent’s garage. After graduation, they moved to Los Angeles and the business became their full-time endeavor. Raan and Shea created Apolis—meaning “global citizen”—with the notion that all people are created equal and should have equal access to global markets.
To explain this component of the business, Raan extends the “teach a man to fish” analogy. He explains that in third-world economies, there are plenty of well-trained fishermen who may not have “the right bait or a large enough pond.” Thus, Apolis seeks to empower these artisans with access to the supply chain.
The second piece of Apolis’ mission involves equipping global citizens with products that are travel-minded and well-designed. A socially motivated lifestyle brand, Apolis operates on the idea that we should have fewer, better products in our lives. As Creative Director, Raan’s focus is on design, while Shae’s efforts as CEO center around business operations and the supply network.
How do Raan and Shae ensure that their business doesn’t contribute to the exploitation of workers? How do they avoid the environmental damage that makes textiles the “second dirtiest industry behind oil”? Apolis employs third-party accountability including the BCorp certification.
Beyond the BCorp audit, Apolis is working to accelerate social change through free-market capitalism. Their model of “Advocacy Through Industry” reflects a revolutionary way to address worldwide problems like poverty and labor with job creation. For example, Apolis produces 200,000 units of its market bag. This allows Apolis to provide fair trade wages, an annual profit dividend, as well as a retirement fund for the women in Bangladesh who handcraft the bags.
The market bag plant in Bangladesh has had an incredibly positive impact on its community. In fact, the six-story studio is the top job creator for the garment industry in the Saidpur region, pumping out 10,000 units per month.
Though Apolis receives between one and three artisan opportunities per day, the company only chooses to move forward with about one in 100. Using job creation as their metric for success, Raan and Shae are realistic about what can be sustained for a long period of time. The company’s strength lies in design and bringing momentum to a new product. They release products with the support of the best retail stores and publications in hubs like Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong.
Shea’s surprising advice to early-stage entrepreneurs? “Don’t do too much good.” He argues that one must be shrewd about building a successful, sustainable businesses rather than trying to do too much, too soon. Raan suggests that new social entrepreneurs working with small cooperatives consider their own motives: “A lot of these places don’t have business experience, and they get very excited … to have first-world partners, [so taking] the lead on how to keep their best interests in mind is super-crucial.”
Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Shea and Raan Parton
“[Our parents] saw travel as the ultimate education of perspective-building and real-world experience.”
“The most rich way to experience places or cultures is to be working there and to be part of it.”
“Every social entrepreneur fantasizes about doing so much good that they’re out of business in the first year.”
“A lot of these places don’t have business experience, [so taking] the lead on how to keep their best interests in mind is super-crucial.”
“Look at your immediate skill sets, the things that you like to do, and figure out how to tactfully do them with some purpose—tomorrow.”
“[Don’t] make it seem so hard to make an impact in your community, specifically with the skill sets that are at your fingertips.”
Social Entrepreneurship Resources:
- Apolis Global: https://www.apolisglobal.com/
- Apolis on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Apolis/115822450933
- Apolis on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apolis/
- Apolis on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/apolis/
- Apolis on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/apolis/
- Book: Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs: https://tonyloyd.com/book